Where Sin is Born
Do you ever feel like someone else is making you behave badly? I do, I think we all do. In reading James 1 today, though, I realized that I can’t blame God for my failures. I can’t blame Satan or even all of the clever demons or spiritual warfare. I can’t blame evil people or drug addicts or dealers or advertisements on TV or the movies or the Internet. So who should we blame when we sin?
The direct cause of sin is our fleshly desires and the choices we make when we let those desires control our lives. James writes that we all have desires.
Many are good, God-given desires. God made us with those desires, knowing that we could never be satisfied by anything other than himself. The food we eat he provides. The safety we have he provides. The relationships we have he provides. It is he who can satisfy our desires. When we search anywhere else to satisfy those basic desires we will find ourselves in sin.
What James is telling us is when those desires that are good get perverted and twisted into an evil desire, that is where sin is born.
This is consistent with what Solomon tells us in Proverbs. Look at what it says in chapter 19, verse 3. “A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the Lord.” Or here’s Paul’s wording in Galatians 5:17: “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.”
James 1:15 tells us: “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
This picture I totally get. I’ve had three children, and all three of them were late by the time I delivered them. So 10 days after each due date, I’m going to the doctor’s office feeling like a massive whale, saying, “When is this baby going to come out?”
The doctor would say to me, “Ines, don’t you worry about it. That baby is not going to grow into full adulthood and grow a beard inside your stomach. It’s going to come out.”
In the same way, once desire has conceived to its fullest, anything that comes before it becomes a temptation, and soon we are trapped. Psalm 7 puts it this way: “Whoever is pregnant with evil conceives trouble and gives birth to disillusionment.” This little baby, sin, has its own children: disillusionment, shame, guilt, death.
Quite often, we don’t even recognize the death sin brings. We might do something and maybe get away with it and recognize, “Well, that didn’t hurt anybody. Maybe it hurt me a little bit, but it didn’t hurt anybody.” So we do it again, and we find ourselves doing it over and over again. We justify in our minds how it’s not that big of a deal, but it is a big deal, because sin births death. In fact, Paul says the wages of sin is death, because it has no other choice but to give the parent, the evil desires, the overcharged desires, a grandchild named “Death.”
Remember, we start with a good thing, a desire that was put in our hearts. But we need to fill it with something God provides, not something the world provides. When that desire is not met, when we have a desire for relationship, for peace, for comfort, for intimacy, for provision, for safety, we turn to sin to provide what only God can.
When that’s not met by God because we don’t even allow God to do so, we go elsewhere. We start to rationalize.
“It’s not that big of a deal,” we might say to ourselves. “It’s not really going to cause death. Come on. This doesn’t hurt anybody. I’m just here by myself.”
Once our rationalization has been birthed and is fully grown, sin comes in and starts to kill. You might think it’s doing nothing, but make no mistake. Sin always kills. It might kill your innocence. It might kill your dignity. It might kill your sense of identity. It always starts in your heart, and then it starts killing everything around you. It kills relationship. It kills ambition. It kills purpose. It kills and kills and kills. That’s what it comes to do.
It’s so powerful. The problem with this cycle is once you sin and see death come into your life, now you’re filled with shame and guilt. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been there. I know what that’s like.
We might start thinking to ourselves that we are now no good, so why not just swan dive into sin? Why not just do a little more? Because now we feel hopeless. Now we feel like we can’t fight against it, and we go into this defeatist attitude that we can’t get out. What we’re really doing is going back to our desires. We don’t fill them with God, because we separate ourselves from God. Then we go back into sin and death.
Look at what James says in verse 16. “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.”
Do not bite into the spiritual illusion that God is tempting you to sin, that Satan is responsible for your sin. Understand what happens within you, the desires you have.
Do you know how you know what your deepest desires are? Look at where you sin. Maybe you hoard and are not generous because your desire is for safety. Maybe you’re bouncing from relationship to relationship, or caught in pornography. What you need is intimacy, and you’re searching for it the wrong way. Look at where you sin. That tells you what the desire in your heart is.
Ephesians 6 says, “…take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” Stand on the reality that if you’re a believer of Christ, you already have within you what it takes to overpower, to fulfill the desires in your heart, to even power over strongholds.
Look at what 2 Corinthians tells us. “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”
Colossians 3 says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
The Bible tells us that we have the power to jump right off of this spin cycle through Jesus Christ. No longer do you have to be held. At the end of this chapter, James gives us the affirmation of that victory, the assurance we need.
Verse 17: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”
Look at what 1 Corinthians tells us. “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
In fact, James in chapter 4 says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
I went for a walk with a friend of mine who is a wonderful encourager and prayer warrior. Some of you know that I have a track record, a very vivid track record, of what it’s like for me to live my way, and it’s ugly. I don’t like my story. I don’t like what I’ve done. I don’t like the places I’ve been. I don’t like the kinds of sins I’ve committed. I was pouring my heart out to my friend, saying, “I know my track record. I know my failures. I know my tendencies. I might just do the same things I’ve always done and fail yet again, now this time in the name of Jesus. I don’t want to fail.”
She looked right at me and said, “Whoa! Stop it, sister. That is a lie from hell. You have forgotten the grace that has been poured upon you. You have forgotten the power of the cross, what Jesus did and died for you. You have forgotten that the victory is already in you, that you are a new creation, now living in the victory of Jesus Christ. If you succeed, it’s because you are trusting in God for your every desire, and it is he who succeeds. God never fails.”
I sometimes forget the grace I’ve been given, the power I’ve been given. I think we need to be reminded that we can stand in victory through Jesus. There’s a way out, and that way out is Jesus Christ.
God gives us these desires – let us use them to bring us closer to him, instead of perverting them in sin.
When we are stuck in sin, when we feel pregnant with temptation or stuck in our own way, it is hard to remember the power of Jesus in our lives. If you are struggling, look up one of the verses in this post, write it down and put it somewhere you’ll see it often – on your bathroom mirror, on your dashboard or in your wallet. Every time you are tempted, remind yourself to find your desires in God alone – only he can fulfill you.